Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The Anti-Princess Movement
Have you heard about the Anti-Princess Movement? You can do a quick Google search on the topic and come up with a host of opinions. But the essence of 'the movement' is this; Disney princesses teach little girls to be weak, fragile creatures who think physical beauty and finding a prince are the only sources of happiness for a girl. The people behind this philosophy believe that princesses are spoiled brats who feel entitled to whatever they want and will run over everyone else to get it.
I don't know about you, but this makes me sad, angry, and frustrated. That is absolutely not what being a princess is about, or why most little girls are naturally drawn to them. Now, there are those girls who do act like spoiled little brats and kick and scream to get what they want, but I would never call them a princess. Diva is more like it.
Disney princesses in particular are getting the brunt of criticism. I, however, would like to offer an opposite opinion; why Disney princesses can be a model for little girls, or at the least a teaching tool. Before you get too judgmental, hold your horses, I've got more to say that will be controversial, but please hear me out.
As a believer in Christ, I learn what a woman should be from the Bible. And here's where I want you to be patient with me. Many of you may have wrong opinions about what the Bible teaches in regards to women. It is not the suppressive text you think. There are many, many heroines in the Bible, and most are from humble origins. They were courageous and strong in a time when women had very few rights. In fact, they often put themselves into dangerous situations that could have cost them their life and still remained obedient to God. Here is a list of the women in the Bible with links to their stories if you are interested. Please keep in mind that this is a list of the women in the Bible, not all are heroines. Some of my favorites are Esther, Ruth, and Mary the mother of Jesus. The values I learned from these women are also some of the things I believe Disney tries to portray as well; kindness, compassion, graciousness, discernment, contentment, self-sacrificing, and showing strength through their trials.
Ok, so back to the Princesses. Here is my break down of each.
Cinderella: An example of graciousness and kindness even through great hardship and oppression. Cinderella was the daughter of a wealthy man and who married poorly. After his death, her step-mother wasted their wealth on the two step-sisters. These sisters are divas, spoiled brats who think they are entitled to everything they want when they want it. This family forces Cinderella, the true heir and father's beloved daughter, to work as a servant. And through all of this she remains kind and compassionate to those even less fortunate than herself; the mice and other animals. She remains polite to her step family. She works hard. It is her personality that endears the animals to her and also make her deserving of a fairy godmother that wants to make her wishes come true. The Prince is nice, but he is a side story. The real victory in this story is her triumph over oppression.
Sleeping Beauty & Snow White : I'm lumping these two Princess stories together because they are really the same. Both Princesses were driven into hiding by threats from jealous witches. They were both forced to live humble lives as peasants. But they were happy. They found friendship and love. They lived simply. Not what you would think of when you think about a princess, right?
Belle: Like Cinderella, Belle was not born a princess. She became one. She was intelligent, kind, and discerning. Belle was the weirdo in her town because she could read and enjoyed reading for pleasure. She continued reading despite criticism because there was nothing wrong with it and it made her happy. When, fellow villager, Gaston proposed to her, she turned him down because she knew that he was not an ideal mate. Belle did not need a man. And she certainly wasn't going to choose the first one that came along.
She was also brave and self-sacrificing. When her father was trapped and enslaved, she sacrificed her life and freedom in exchange for her father's freedom. Even through these circumstances, she remained gentle and merciful to the Beast. She showed compassion when the Beast could not use a spoon. She suggested drinking from a bowl instead, making her captor feel more comfortable. She saw past his beastly demeanor and saw tenderness within him. This Princess was the only one who actually came to the rescue of her 'Prince,' the Beast. Her love saved his life.
Jasmine: Jasmine was probably also an educated Princess. She knew her own mind. She desired freedom and did not want to marry just any Prince that came along. She valued honesty and was brave. Ultimately she went against her cultural norm and fell in love with and engaged herself to a non-Prince.
Ariel (The Little Mermaid): While Ariel was my personal favorite as a child, looking back, I think she has the least to offer as a role model. She was rebellious, inconsiderate of the feelings of others, and impetuous. Ariel was so head-strong, a term used in the movie I might add, that she deliberately disobeyed her father by seeking out humans. When she was told not to continue seeking after humans, who mermaids viewed as dangerous, she ran away. She didn't leave a note. For all her family knew, a shark could have eaten her. Not only did she run away, she ran to a witch, who took Ariel's most valuable talent, her voice, in exchange for making her human. So now Ariel is alone, without a voice, and has three days to make the Prince fall in love with her or else she will be enslaved to the witch. Sure things worked out in the end, but in the process, she not only risked her life, but her father's life, and her love's. When all the while her father had the power to change her into a human if she would have convinced him that she wanted to see what their world was like. It might not have yielded the quick results that she wanted, but hey, patience is a virtue, is it not?
To wrap up this long post, I would just like to say that my 22 month old daughter is already obsessed with Princesses, and without any encouragement either. She's just drawn to them and not for any of the moral reasons I listed above. No, she just likes to play dress up, play with her baby dolls, and have tea parties. Of course she also likes blocks, choo choos, and balls. I am not under any delusions about why she likes Princesses. But, I have no problems with it because as she ages and matures, she will see and learn, and I will emphasize what true beauty and real Princesses are really about. In closing, here is a picture of my little Princess playing with her blocks.
I know this subject can be controversial and there are many opinions about it. I welcome any comments and discussion, but please remember to be kind and respectful to one another. I will delete any rude, vulgar, or otherwise nasty comments.